In June, after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement saw an influx of support. Many people attended protests, used their platforms to amplify Black voices, and opened their pockets to support Black people and Black-owned businesses. During the month of June, I remember having this enthusiastic feeling about change to come. When the movement for social equality began to gain momentum, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be involved. We had major corporations making initiatives within their companies to enact change. Sephora created the 15% pledge that promised to have at least 15% of their products sourced from Black-owned businesses. Netflix highlighted Black films and bought the rights to many Black sitcoms that were prominent in the 90s and early 2000s. Even Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from his position within the company in order to bring on a Black person to replace him. It seemed as though people were really listening to us and pushing for change.
When the protests began in early June, I wanted to find a way to use my voice so that people could understand what Black Lives Matter is and why it is incredibly important. Writing has always been my outlet, and I feel like words have power, so I started to write essays and poetry that reflected my feelings as a Black person in this world and posted them on my Instagram. Along with those essays, I created guides to help people understand how to contribute to Black Lives Matter in a genuine fashion. My reasoning for creating the guides in the first place was because of the constant performative activism I was seeing on social media. I witnessed so many black squares with #blackouttuesday on my feed and felt a sense of emptiness. It felt like people were taking part in a trend, instead of taking the initiative to support BLM and educate themselves. But instead of bitching about it and making myself more frustrated, I created guides. I kept telling myself that some people just needed education on Black Lives Matter and that once they received the necessary knowledge, they would do better. Surprisingly, because of the power of social media, my guides have been shared by thousands of people from all walks of life. I have received messages from people in the entertainment industry, several different publications, and even people that consider themselves “reformed” racists, all thanking me for my work and telling me that they wanted to do better and educate themselves. It felt good to know that people wanted to see change, and I felt proud to be a small part of the reason why change was happening.
However, with good feedback also came criticism—or, to be honest, I don’t even know if criticism is the right word. There are times that I receive hateful messages from folks with such derogatory and passive-aggressive rhetoric that I find myself in a state of shock reading them. I’ve had people aggressively put down my work, call me racist for calling out white privilege, or continuously harass me through my direct messages on a daily or weekly basis. When I tell people about this, especially non-Black people, they seem confused. In their eyes, the “activism” that was displayed in June was enough for discrimination toward Black people to be over. That’s the problem. Racism isn’t going to magically go away because you posted a black square on your Instagram, or you wrote a long personal essay reflecting on your privilege and how you “need to do better”. Acts of racism towards Black people have been happening for hundreds of years. Racism was not going to disappear into thin air by the end of June. Racism was not going to “take a break” so that you could celebrate the Fourth of July. Racism is very much alive and seems more aggressive than ever, partly due to the impending election.
I am very aware that writing this essay and publishing it to a platform that has a majority white audience can come with backlash. I know that many of you might personally feel as though pop culture and lifestyle platforms are becoming “too political”, and that you just want to be able to “enjoy” it and not make everything about race. That right there is an issue. Human rights are not political, whatsoever. Feeling enraged because your favorite celebrities are continuously using their platforms to amplify Black Lives Matter is racist. Getting upset because your favorite Bravolebrity was fired for racist behavior? Racist. When you find yourself tweeting things like “Why does everything have to be about race?”, or “Don’t pull the Black card.”, it’s racist. To those who consider themselves allies, stop confusing ignorance with racism as a way to make excuses for those whom you admire. To be ignorant, you would have to have a lack of knowledge as it pertains to the subject at hand. The subject here is Black lives, and a majority of you reading this are educated enough to know right from wrong—so we are not talking about ignorance, but racism. Start publicly condemning your racist colleagues. I don’t care how many followers the person has, what connections they might have that might help elevate you, or whether or not you believe them to be a good person. If you genuinely give a f*ck about your Black friends and family, you will do what is right. Your voice matters now more than ever. Here are some ways that you can continue to practice allyship and contribute for equality towards Black people.
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To be quite honest with you, I know that Instagram guides on injustice are seemingly becoming repetitive. However for the past few days, I’ve noticed not only a decrease in “online support” for the #blacklivesmatter movement but also a lot of Anti-Black rhetoric. Your support for this movement shouldn’t be leverage you hold against Black people when you see an injustice committed by a Black person. This movement is also not a damn meme and isn’t something that’s gonna just go away over night. I also believe that words have power. The more we educate the more we can eradicate racist behavior/policies. However, we also need action. Corporations and people with power, hire more Black people. School Districts, hire more Black teachers. Hospitals, hire more Black health care professionals. Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING, and don’t wait for us to be around to show support. Keep that same energy everywhere. Shoutout to @heysharonc for creating the #pulluporshutup initiative. It opened my eyes to how much companies lack diversity across the board especially as it pertains to Black people. Now I need a mental health break after all of this 😭, thanks for the support everyone and please continue to show solidarity to the #blacklivesmatter movement 💛✨💪🏾
Open Your Purse
Besides supporting your local Black businesses, there are also other ways to open your purse and support Black people. With the results of the election coming out soon, there are sure to be protests coming from all sides. Usually, at these protests, Black people are more likely to be arrested and charged. If you can, try to donate to bail funds in your local area that could help bail out Black protesters in your area.
Vote in every election that you have. I don’t care if it’s for the HOA board in your building, your student council if you attend college or your local election in your town. Every election matters, not just the presidential election. If you have the privilege to vote, utilize it.
Read The Room
Performative activism is not cute and actually does more harm than good. If you show up to a protest just to contribute to looting or to show up to take selfies, you are taking part in performative activism, which is activism for the sole purpose of personal gain. Don’t show up if you are going to do this. Also, do not take part in protesting for BLM just so that you can excuse or justify your own racist/ignorant behavior down the line. Allyship does not exempt you from being called out as well.
Lastly, please have the necessary conversations with those around you. Call out discriminatory behavior when you see it. If you see something, say something in the moment. If you continuously see this behavior in individuals around you, cut them off. Some people aren’t meant to be changed and you willingly being around them says a lot about your character. One of the most consistent ways to practice allyship is to continually call out racism when you see it in your everyday life.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; jonathanchandler_ / Instagram
There can be no discussion of the year 2020 without the mention of the name George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who was brutally murdered at the hands of Derek Chauvin and three other police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota this past May. And while George Floyd did not ask to be martyred, his brutal and untimely death awakened the world, and was undoubtedly the inciting incident for what many are calling the civil rights movement of 2020. Although it’s tough to say definitively if the uprisings we’ve seen this year can be compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s (as that movement tenaciously lasted for more than 10 years), it is fair to say that the Black Lives Matter movement is certainly moving in that direction. And if, in fact, we are headed down that historic route, it would absolutely be because of the bold, radical, unapologetic voices guiding us, leading us down the path to revolution.
It is no secret that black women and femmes have played a central role in the current Black Lives Matter movement—after all, it was a 17-year-old Black woman, Darnella Frazier, who bravely filmed George Floyd’s death, providing the world with the concrete video footage that made the misconduct surrounding his murder indisputable. But Black women and femmes have always had a unique perspective into structural injustice, probably because they have always been at the receiving end of most of it. Black women’s rights and interests routinely take a back seat to those of white women and cis black men. As such, you may have heard (whether directly from the source, Malcolm X, or indirectly from a pretty good source, Beyoncé) that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” And perhaps it is because of this regular disrespect that Black women and femmes have sought to reclaim agency and use their voices to speak.
Over the past few months, Black women and femmes from all industries have been using their social media platforms to mobilize and educate the masses, creating a revolution for the digital age. They are leading the anti-racism conversation by saying what many people don’t have the courage to say; pushing the boundary and not accepting performative or shallow attempts at change; ensuring that the revolution will be televised (via Instagram), and that it will be inclusive and intersectional. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the Black women and femmes that I follow who regularly challenge me to learn and do better—I highly recommend you consider following them as well.
Sonya Renee Taylor, IG (@sonyareneetaylor)
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The viral video of Haley challenging her racist parents has gone viral for Folks inspired by her desire to stand up to her parents and advocate for Black people. However, Haley missed the mark and my hunch is most white folks do. STOP arguing with your white family about Black people. START talking about the sickness that is whiteness and how you and them have ingested it. White people talk about people of color so that they don’t have to deal with themselves and the culture and systems whiteness has created inside them. White people it is time to talk about WHITENESS and not about Black folks. #indefenseofblacklives #whitesupremacymustfall #whitestalkaboutwhiteness #healyourwhiteness #blacklivesmatter
If you are like me, you first encountered Sonya Renee Taylor back in June after a video of hers went viral. The video was in response to another viral video on Tik Tok, which featured a well-intentioned yet slightly misguided teen attempting to have “the anti-racism talk” with her family. While most of the internet was applauding Haley for having any semblance of a talk with her family at all, Sonya Renee Taylor’s response video challenged us all to think more critically about what exactly it was that Haley and her family were debating: “Haley was arguing with her parents about whether or not Black people were worthy of life. The fact that that is a conversation is the problem.” Taylor was able to shift the conversation from the localized issue of Black lives simply mattering (a conversation that really shouldn’t be a conversation at all) to the more comprehensive, structural issue: “the delusions of white supremacy.” And that, in a nutshell, is Sonya Renee Taylor’s enthrall—she has the wonderfully unique ability to shed light on matters that challenge and defy the obvious perspective. In addition to her keen insights concerning racism, blackness, and white supremacy, she also commits to spreading discourse surrounding gender, fatphobia, and radical self love. So if you are looking to learn, be challenged, and pick up some lessons on how to love yourself radically and without apology, you must dive into the work of Sonya Renee Taylor and follow her on Instagram.
Noname, Twitter (@noname)
if we believe black lives matter, we must also believe capitalism needs to be destroyed. as long as that system is in place and maintained by powerful elites, black people will die forever.
— 🌱 (@noname) July 26, 2020
Admittedly, it sort of feels weird telling you to follow Noname, because her whole thing is that we should divest from structural systems, celebrity culture being one of them. With that being said… you should follow Noname. Noname has been making music and uplifting POC interests and voices for years now, but she gained mainstream traction this past year. She’s been a dominant voice in the digital Black liberation conversation, regularly challenging her audience to read, learn, and think for themselves. What’s most compelling about Noname’s Twitter presence is she uses it as a means to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. You can find her calling out imperialism, the industrial prison complex, and the patriarchy; but, you can also find her calling herself out, owning past mistakes and gaps of knowledge she had before she learned better. As she poignantly points out, “growth is an embarrassing yet necessary part of the process.”
Perhaps Noname’s biggest digital moment occurred this past June, when rapper J. Cole thought it would be constructive to derail from the movement and drop a tremendously odd single, accusing Noname of using a “queen tone” and thinking “ better than” him and other rappers in her efforts to speak up against structural oppression on Twitter. Noname’s eloquent retort came in the form of a 1 minute and 10 second song, the thesis essentially being: “he really ’bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?” With concision and flair, Noname defended herself while effortlessly redirecting the conversation back to the serious issues at hand. Noname uses her Twitter presence in a similar way, calling out problematic mainstream pop culture while consistently shedding light on critical societal issues. So if you want to be a part of her “new vanguard,” follow Noname on Twitter and consider joining her book club.
Ericka Hart, IG (@ihartericka)
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“In our culture privacy is often confused with secrecy. Open, honest, truth-telling individuals value privacy. We all need spaces where we can be alone with thoughts and feelings – where we can experience healthy psychological autonomy and can choose to share when we want to. Keeping secrets is usually about power, about hiding and concealing information.” -bell hooks ⠀ I have been so weary with this new wave of positing that “call outs” are harmful. In my classrooms, I have always contested with this logic – when you make a suggestion that things shouldn’t be called out- who are you protecting? I don’t know about y’all, but I come from a world that loves a secret. bell hooks in All About Love talks about our desire to keep secrets can be linked to slavery- an institution built on a lie, human traffickers lied, enslaved people had to lie to stay safe, institutions lie about what really happened, white washed history lies. ⠀ It’s revolutionary for secrets to be told. To call a thing a thing, rather than bury it in activism or Broadway. I have been apart of many organizing spaces/non profits etc that claimed radical and love, but resisted transparency. These two things can’t exist at the same time. ⠀ We don’t have a call out culture, we have an abuse protection culture. And that is the essence of white supremacy. ⠀ Thank you @jewel_thegem and @thechubbygoddess for the realest most healing IG live I’ve ever watched. Please go follow them and PAY THEM.
I wish I could say that I’ve had the pleasure of following and engaging with Ericka Hart’s content long before this year, but alas, I, too, fell victim to bandwagon culture, and only discovered this dope account this past May. A self-proclaimed “racial/social/gender justice disruptor,” “sex educator,” and “breast cancer survivor,” Ericka Hart uses their social media platform to cover tons of ground on the journey to liberation and is, by far, one of the most engaging accounts I follow. Ericka Hart’s social media presence is unique in that their dialogue concerning social justice is dynamic—not only do they foster conversations that discuss plain truths about race and Blackness, but they also add unique depth to the discussion by examining matters of colorism and ableism. However, what specifically drew me to Ericka Hart’s account was their advocacy for the protection and uplifting of Black lives that exist beyond the scope of cis Black men. They were a dominant voice in May insisting that we not only demand justice for George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, but for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, Tony McDade, a Black trans man, and countless other Black women and trans folks that have been murdered at the hands of injustice. I, myself, am constantly challenged by Ericka Hart, as they constantly provide the reminder that the revolution cannot be complete or effective if it does not seek to liberate all Black lives. Ericka Hart’s Instagram presence is also a healthy one to follow because they also use it as a platform to celebrate Black joy and Black love—regularly posting content with their partner, Ebony. It’s a radical reminder that the Black story is not one of plight but one of joy and abundance. So do yourself a favor and follow Ericka Hart.
Ziwe, IG (@ziwef)
One of the most powerful adages that has come out of the last couple of months is “the revolution has many lanes.” And I think it’s safe to say that the lane of the revolution that’s “activism through humor” has been monopolized by writer and comedian, Ziwe Fumudoh. Hosting a weekly show on Instagram Live, Ziwe attracts crowds in the thousands as they eagerly watch as she talks with notable people—predominantly white people—about race in America and skillfully baits them into an incorrect, often cringeworthy answer. What’s most fascinating about Ziwe’s show is that her practice of “baiting” really isn’t baiting at all—she just asks questions and simply waits for answers. Without fail, and despite days of preparation and sometimes even tangible notecards, guests will always say the wrong thing—revealing that even the most well-prepared, well-intentioned white people have some kind of implicit bias that they need to reckon with. Previous guests have included infamous white women like Caroline Calloway, Alison Roman, and Alyssa Milano, but Ziwe has also interviewed people of other races, like Jeremy O. Harris, forcing him to discuss his use of Black women’s bodies on stage in his seminal work, Slave Play. At the end of every interview, Ziwe asks her guest what the audience has been wondering the whole time: why the hell did you agree to come on this show? And the guest’s answer is almost always the same: part of doing the work is being made to feel uncomfortable and humbling yourself in order to learn. And that’s the Ziwe influence—she’s created a public platform for those willing to be challenged and learn, while allowing her audience to heal through community and catharsis as they watch the process take place. If you’re not familiar with Ziwe, please join us in the year 2020 and give her a follow!
Rachel Cargle, IG (@rachel.cargle)
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A quick mid week sermon. • If your only goal is to “break the glass ceiling” consider who all those shards of glass will be falling on if you’re not bringing the most marginalized women with you. • Listen to me closely: if your feminism simply means “getting even” with white men it’s not ever going to be an intersectional, inclusive and justice based movement. • Drop a comment or emoji below and let me know you HEAR me. I need you to hear me. • #feminism #womanism #glassceiling #womensrights #womanhistory #womenshistorymonth #quarantine #dogsofinstagram #catsofinstagram #pnwonderland #howdarling #teachersofinstagram #boymom #taylorswift
If there is any account that I am 90% certain you’ve encountered over the past few months, it’s Rachel Cargle’s—and it should be Rachel Cargle’s, as she uses her platform predominantly as a means for education and activism. Upon scrolling through her IG feed, one of the first things of note is that her academic and mobilization efforts far precede this year’s events. Cargle has been guiding the conversation on race and womanhood in support of the revolution for years, even though many of us have only come around recently to receive her words. She regularly promotes the work of “unlearning” through learning, and curates monthly reading lists and lectures via her online platform The Great Unlearn (a patreon you should subscribe to!).
But what sets Rachel Cargle apart from other activists is that a central part of her work is providing tools and resources for her audience to ensure that learning doesn’t stop at required reading, but is further translated into action. For example, when much of the world was posting open letters to their schools, universities, and workplaces to expose them for unjust practices and racist ideals, Rachel Cargle took to her Instagram account to take it one step further: providing her audience with a template for how they, too, can hold the institutions in their lives accountable for structural injustice. In addition to these accountability templates, she also curated a 30-day Do the Work challenge and posted tangible ways to decolonize your bookshelf, continuing the idea that activism must be combined with action in order to really effect change and mobilize a revolution. So if you’re looking to become a student in the masterclass on effective activism, follow Rachel Cargle on Instagram.
A prevailing question on the minds and lips of many this past year has been: “How long will this movement last?” “Is this movement just a moment?” But it’s been three months since the murder of George Floyd, and the movement is still prospering. While the momentum has, naturally, oscillated, its heartbeat is still strong. Why? Because we have leaders: Black women and femmes, the new generation of activists—our new vanguard—who have committed themselves to the endurance of this movement. While it may be easy at times to be defeatist and feel overcome and overwhelmed by how far we have to go, optimism lies in the comfort that we are being led in this revolution by some of the brightest, most talented minds out there. And we can access all of them through the proximity of our smartphones. We simply have no choice but to stan these women and femmes (and send them some coin to pay them for their labor).
Images: Angelo Moleele / Unsplash; sonyareneetaylor, ihartericka, ziwef, Rachel.cargle / Instagram; Noname / Twitter
During a peaceful march on Tuesday evening in New York City, an unmarked Kia minivan pulled up alongside protesters before random men in NYPD T-shirts, khaki shorts, and sneakers jumped out to grab 18-year-old Nikki Stone, dragging her into the van.
The protestors went mad, charging the white van, trying to rescue the girl. One bystander yelling, “What the f— is wrong with you pigs?”
Video of the incident went viral, racking up over a million views.
nypd is out here KIDNAPPING protesters off of the street pic.twitter.com/LCCBj0Ipp8
— Natalie (@Naddleez) July 28, 2020
AOC went off. The New York congresswoman tweeted, “Our civil liberties are on brink. This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”
She’s right: Unmarked cars, clandestine arrests, nameless officers—oh, my! 2020 has taken a hard left (or right), and it’s all very sketchy.
Who Had Clandestine Cops On Their 2020 Dystopia Bingo Card?
Clandestine state law dogs and federal tactical teams have been targeting protesters in major cities, seizing people and using force without identification or markings. Portland has taken center stage, as videos of shadow officers striking, grabbing, and gassing citizens have gained national attention.
These covert acts by law enforcement raise a host of issues that impact your constitutional rights—primarily the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions says you have the right not to be searched or seized by law enforcement unless they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime. This requires more than a hunch or suspicion. Probable cause is about having articulable facts.
Basically, the Fourth Amendment means five-O needs concrete info to justify ransacking your stuff or hauling you away in handcuffs. Boundaries aren’t just the cornerstone of mature relationships, but also a functioning democracy. (Quote me on that.)
This has been the law for centuries. But even though the agents know the law, they may not always abide by it. Law enforcement is usually backed by the powers that be, so they rarely suffer any consequences for violating your rights.
In his spirited testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General William P. Barr (the nation’s top cop) agreed that your Fourth Amendment rights must be protected—but he also made clear that he’s not backing down from sending agents into cities to aggressively police protesters.
You may be seeing more law enforcement soon. In fact, since sending agents into Kansas City and Portland in early July, the Trump Administration announced last week that it was dispatching officers into other major cities, claiming that federal troops are necessary to combat “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.”
Sounds scary, right? Fortunately, criminologists confirm that we shouldn’t be sounding the alarm, as crime isn’t a big issue.
Across the board, crime rates are lower than they were last year. This recent spike in crime is a product of governors lifting the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders—basically inviting people to return to their typical shenanigans, which unfortunately includes crime.
Don’t let the fear-mongering get you. Even though crime isn’t something you should necessarily be concerned about right now, it is imperative to protect your constitutional rights by continuing to protest.
“A lot of people got scared off of joining the march after cops grabbed protestors, but that’s exactly when people should gear up and join in,” says a 30-year-old writer who attended Tuesday’s march in Manhattan. The avid social justice warrior, who prefers to remain unnamed, noted, “You have to operate from a cautious optimism: prepare for the worst but hope for the best.”
Stone likely hoped for the best upon being seized Tuesday by the unmarked officers. After spending the night in police custody, Stone was told that the NYPD arrested her for allegedly destroying surveillance equipment. We’ll have to see how those charges play out in court.
In the meantime, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio indicates that he doesn’t want what happened in Portland to happen in his city, adding, “I think it was the wrong time and the wrong place to effectuate that arrest” of Ms. Stone.
Whether or not you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, know your rights and continue to unapologetically exercise them. No one needs the final stretch of 2020 to end with dystopia.
Images: Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Naddleez/Twitter
After Blackout Tuesday, you may have seen the term “optical allyship” making the rounds on social media, along with the phrase “it’s a movement, not a moment.” While it’s great that Black Lives Matter is finally being accepted in the mainstream and talked about on a global scale, and showing solidarity (especially on social media) is important, it shouldn’t be your only step toward working to be anti-racist. If you are committed to practicing allyship continually, it’s important to learn what optical allyship is, why it’s counterproductive, and how you can make sure you’re going beyond the optics with your support.
So, What is Optical Allyship?
the internal work – interrogating, re-arranging, and re-educating our psyches and hearts – that’s the hard work. that’s the work nobody will hold you accountable for. do that too. do that most.
— kendra (@kendramorous) June 2, 2020
Latham Thomas, author of Own Your Glow, coined the term optical allyship, which she defines as “allyship that only serves at the surface level to platform the ‘ally.’” She explains, “It makes a statement but doesn’t go beneath the surface and is not aimed at breaking away from the systems of power that oppress.” Basically, optical allyship is performative, serving the ally and not really digging deeper into understanding the systems of oppression so they can be dismantled. Optical allyship is mostly talk, when true allyship is about actions. As Roxane Gay explains in her article On Making Black Lives Matter, “The problem with allyship is that good intentions are not enough. Allyship offers a safe haven from harsh realities and the dirty work of creating change. It offers a comfortable distance that can be terribly unproductive.” Separating yourself from optical allyship means not just posting a black square or Martin Luther King Jr. quote and calling it a day, it means taking on the struggle and fight as if it’s your own and committing to doing the work—not just this week, but beyond. That is where the real allyship begins.
Optical Allyship In Action
One of the obvious examples of optical allyship is the influencers who use the protests and Black Lives Matter movement to up their IG aesthetics. While (I hope) we all know right off the bat why it’s wrong to show up to a protest, take one picture, and then bounce, posting a protest thirst trap isn’t the beginning and end of optical allyship.
Odds are that the majority of us have either posted an Instagram story or retweeted an image or statement recently in efforts to spread awareness and show support for the movement. If you are not also donating to causes supporting Black Lives Matter, supporting Black-owned businesses, reading up on Black history, and/or calling your representatives, then that Instagram story or retweet falls under optical allyship. In an Instagram post, Thomas explains, “True allyship is about building trust, being consistent, standing up, speaking up, recognizing the struggle and carrying some of the weight, it’s using your God-given sense to figure some of this stuff out and not waiting for folks to tell you.”
I get it for those of you out there that want to support the movement but aren’t sure how or what to do. I can also see how one might think that posting a black square is a contribution to the cause because you’re showing solidarity, but in reality, ask yourself what is it really doing and who is it really serving? It is not enough to just post a quote or an image without any context or link out to reliable resources. That is when your allyship becomes performative and fails to break through to deeper levels in order to invoke real conversation and change. Really, it’s time to put your money where your black square is. As Roxane Gay puts it, “We need people to use common sense to figure out how to participate in social justice.”
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There are people who are truly energized and moved to work to improve the lives of marginalized people. They do a lot behind the scenes that people can’t always see, they have an interest and commitment to learning. There are also people who are taking advantage of this pivotal momentum in culture and tokenizing people of color and the marginalized to further their pursuits. There are people who never before took interest in my work or the work of my sisters and brothers on the front lines of change, but now that it’s “cool” to be “woke” I find my inbox flooded with disingenuous requests to attach to the hard work we’ve done or to use my credibility like a cash card to advance the credibility of someone who is just clearly interested in making money and growing a following. I’m not interested in OPTICAL ALLYSHIP. This is allyship that only serves at the surface level to platform the “ally”, it makes a statement but doesn’t go beneath the surface and is not aimed at breaking away from the systems of power that oppress. True allyship is about building trust, being consistent, standing up, speaking up, recognizing the struggle and carrying some of the weight, it’s using your God-given sense to figure some of this stuff out and not waiting for folks to tell you. Its knowing that your voice is powerful alongside marginalized voices – not infront of or instead of marginalized ones. It’s using Google and reading books and joining groups that are aimed at anti-oppression. It’s becoming a great listener and recognizing that just because you’re new to the work, doesn’t mean it’s new. Know that folks have been working all along and you’re stepping into something already in play… get in where you fit in, take notes, bring resources, and acknowledge you have work to do. Just because you have one black friend, a LGBTQIA family member or work with someone disabled doesn’t mean that you’re doing the work. It doesn’t happen on its own- you have to constantly engage and challenge yourself- this is a lifelong commitment, not a popular one. Also, why not let other folks recognize you as an ally or label you an activist. ——CONTINUED BELOW—— READ
How To Be An Authentic Ally
So, how do you make the leap from optical allyship to being an authentic ally? Well for starters, just listen without feeling the need to insert yourself into the dialogue. As Thomas writes in her Instagram caption, “just because you’re new to the work, doesn’t mean it’s new. Know that folks have been working all along and you’re stepping into something already in play…get in where you fit in, take notes, bring resources, and acknowledge you have work to do.” Especially as white people, one of the best things we can do (and it’s so easy) is actually just shut up and listen.
That doesn’t mean you should never post on social media about Black Lives Matter—it just means be intentional about what you do post. Instead of just posting a square, see if you can post resources. Share organizations, educational materials, and places to donate. Share artwork by BIPOC illustrators and designers to amplify their voices.
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Systemic racism wasn’t built in a day, and abolishing it won’t happen in a few weeks, either. Continued ally support is essential in the battle against racism. Black lives matter today, they matter tomorrow, and they will continue to matter long after the protests subside. Being an ally is an ongoing commitment. I understand that this learning and these conversations can be uncomfortable, and change can be too, but when people are losing their lives, then it’s time to get uncomfortable.
Yes, take action by educating yourself. Read books, watch documentaries—do that. Then go a step further by implementing your newfound knowledge into your everyday life, and by having discussions with people in your life about what you learned. This doesn’t mean that you have to blow up and check your conservative aunt with soap opera-level dramatics at every family gathering, but you can still discourage and shut down any racist remarks, and help educate those who make them. Conversations lead to change, so they’re worth having—comfortable or not. Amélie Lamont writes in The Guide To Allyship, “As an ally, you need to be willing to own your mistakes and be proactive in your education.” Not to be cheesy, but every day is a new opportunity to do better. You can also continue your practice by following accounts that reinforce these ideologies, like Mireille Harper, who released a 10-step guide to achieving non-optical allyship. The resources are all there, so use them. Seriously, if you can take the time to learn how to bake sourdough bread, then you can take the time to learn how to be an ally.
How To Make Allyship Your Lifelong Priority
There’s another level of allyship that goes beyond sharing resources, spending money, and having hard conversations with family members and friends. You may have heard the saying, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” This refers to how the actions that are necessary to truly dismantle systemic racism might appear to mean putting yourself or your white peers at a seeming disadvantage in some parts of your life.
The difference between these types of opportunities for allyship, versus what we’ve been witnessing happening on social media over the past few weeks, is that we don’t always get to choose when these opportunities arise for us, and they may appear as harder choices than simply choosing to buy from a Black-owned brand. But recognizing these opportunities to stand up and speak up, and then doing it, is what makes allyship authentic vs. performative.
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My heart has been breaking. I’ve been praying. I’ve been doing the work. I’ve been sending my love, I’ve been posting,but most of all I’ve been angry that my friends are unprotected &unsafe. Racism is bigger than just America. ITS GLOBAL. Incase you haven’t seen your friends shouting for years they need us. I as a NBPOC have to stand. So do you. So does your family and every person you know. The racism and oppression a Black person feels is not interchangeable with a person of color (POC) either. It’s not the same thing. The history is proof. 𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐃𝐎 𝐍𝐎𝐓 𝐰𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐮𝐩 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐘𝐄𝐀𝐑𝐒, 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐬𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐚𝐬: “𝐮𝐧𝐬𝐚𝐟𝐞” “𝐮𝐧𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐝” “𝐮𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧” “𝐞𝐱𝐡𝐚𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐝” “𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐝” “𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐦𝐞𝐝” “𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐭” “𝐈𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐭” 𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐍 𝐘𝐎𝐔 𝐇𝐎𝐋𝐃 𝐀 𝐏𝐑𝐈𝐕𝐈𝐋𝐄𝐆𝐄 𝐓𝐇𝐀𝐓 𝐁𝐋𝐀𝐂𝐊 𝐏𝐄𝐎𝐏𝐋𝐄 𝐋𝐀𝐂𝐊. We have seen our Black friends continuously express that Although social media posts are a wonderful tool to spread word and awareness to the issue, they want to see us pull up for them everyday. Anti Racism is acknowledging that you play a role in the problem. Acknowledge that we aren’t doing enough. Being a part of the solution towards racism is challenging the world to turn towards the problem everyday. 𝐃𝐎 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝗪𝐎𝐑𝐊 and make it your moral responsibility. Through having conversations with friends and doing research I have put together some things I have learned to be helpful in practicing effective Allyship. I am not an expert at all and I will continue to learn. If you couldn’t attend the protest today here are some things you CAN do (implement these into your daily life. No more excuses) 𝐋𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐄𝐍. 𝐔𝐍𝐋𝐄𝐀𝐑𝐍. 𝐃𝐎 𝐒𝐎𝐌𝐄𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐍𝐆. Today. Tomorrow. Every single day. If you are sharing a planet with other human beings it is your duty to educate yourself. And When injustice becomes law it is your DUTY as a citizen of this world to stand up. #blacklivesmatter #dothework *I don’t own the information in the LINKS provided within the slides*
For example, let’s say you’re a parent at a school district meeting. Pretend it’s a great school district, the type where parents will pay higher property taxes to give their children the chance to attend. Now pretend that the racial or socioeconomic makeup is one that doesn’t allow for a lot of diversity. Back to the hypothetical school board meeting: the issue at hand is trying to more actively integrate the school district, and that might be coded as “adding more multi-family homes to the district” aka zoning apartments. If you grew up in certain elitist suburbs, you know that there will be individuals who resist these changes, chalking it up to things like “property values” and the “school district ranking.” In this scenario, focusing on these latter things would indicate that someone prioritizes maintaining one’s own advantages (building wealth, premium education for their children) rather than allowing children of color to access these advantages as well. A commitment to being anti-racist can sometimes mean dismantling those types of perceived “disadvantages” for the sake of the greater good.
This is just one of the thousands of examples of systemic racism that persist in our society in ways that white people can choose to ignore and uphold. They’re also not the types of choices that we’re faced with every day, and perhaps these types of choices have previously been consciously uncoupled from race in the minds of most white people. The goal is to be able to see what issues in society have been insidiously shaped by racist policies, so that when we’re presented with an opportunity to actually do something about them, we’ve been educated and are committed enough to make the right choice, even if they might take away some of the advantages we’ve enjoyed in the past.
Images: Life Matters / Pexels; Kendra Austin / Instagram; Off Campus / Instagram; Shana Hezavehi / Instagram
The past few weeks, the country has been making strides in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and speaking out against police brutality and systemic racism. As a white woman, I’ll be the first to admit: I’m no expert on the matter, so I looked to an expert to point me in the right direction. While digging through YouTube in an effort to self-educate and understand, I came across diversity advocate Vernā Myers and her TED talk entitled “How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them”. (It was published over six years ago, which says a lot about how far we haven’t come.) The inclusion strategist, who specializes as a cultural change catalyst, says that acknowledging our racism might be the best way to overcome it. Naturally, this is just one video, one talk, and one tiny step on my path toward self-education. But as I’ve searched for guidance and answers and action items, Myers’ discussion about just how dangerous and deadly our biases can be stood out. (On that note: I’m always looking for more, so drop your best TED talks or educational recs in the comments.)
In her 18-minute discussion, the activist outlines her own personal biases and explains how the only way to stop the spread and continuation of unfair treatment is to look within ourselves and be willing to change. “What are we gonna do about it?” She asked the audience. “That part of us that still crosses the street, locks the doors, clutches the purses when we see young Black men? That part?”
I’ve never considered myself racist. I’ve had plenty of Black friends in my life, I’ve always supported equality, and I like to think I call out hate speech and bigotry. Guess what? That’s not enough. I thought that just because I’m not spewing slurs or consciously alienating Black people, that I’m not a part of the problem, when it turns out: I AM THE PROBLEM. By being silent and not addressing my own subconscious prejudices, I’m complicit in and contributing to a system that oppresses minorities. Still, no matter how well-intentioned I am, coming to terms with my own flaws and (gulp) racist tendencies was, and is, a tough pill to swallow.
In the video, Myers offers three tools to end unconscious biases. It’s the biases we don’t even know we have—and yes, we all have them—that feed into and help perpetuate the cycle of unjust treatment of Black people. So, what do we DO? Myers’ calls-to-action can help white people take the first (of many) steps on the path to helping Black Americans achieve true equality.
1. Get Out Of Denial
“We have to stop trying to be good people. We need real people,” Myers says. “The problem is, if you ask someone right out, they’ll say they aren’t biased. But most, if not literally all of us, have biases we don’t even know we have. Who do you trust? Who are you afraid of? Biases are the stories we make up about people before we know who they actually are.”
First and foremost, you need to learn what your biases are. She suggests the Implicit Association Test, which measures unconscious biases. The results of the vast population who has taken it is that 70% of white people unknowingly prefer white people and 50% of Black people unknowingly prefer white people. It’s not a conscious choice, and when I fell amongst that 70%, I was horrified. Which is, as Myers says, the first and right step. So, “what do we do about the fact that this is what our brain automatically associated?” Instead of pretending those biases aren’t there, we dive into them. Find out your biases and then go look for data to prove yourself wrong.
2. Move Toward Your Biases Instead Of Away From Them
“The problem with being ‘color blind’ is that it’s a false ideal,” Myers insists. “While we’re busy pretending not to see, we are not being aware of the ways in which racial difference is changing peoples’ possibilities. That’s keeping them from thriving and sometimes, it’s causing them an early death.” Once you’ve figured out your biases, the next step is, as the title of the talk says, “to walk boldly toward them.” That means you confront them head-on. One way to do this, as Myers says, is to “expand your social and professional circle. Go deeper and further.”
In addition to expanding our circles, “scientists are suggesting to stare at awesome Black people. Look at them. Learn about them. It helps dissociate the generations of unconscious biases in our brains.” Another way to subconsciously train your unconscious brain is to literally look at a side-by-side picture of a bad white person and an awesome Black person. Her suggestion was Jeffrey Dahmer and Colin Powell. She said just stare at them.
On the left, the white man, was an American serial killer who murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys. His later murders involved necrophilia, cannibalism, preserving body parts. The man on the right, the Black man, is a retired United States Army four-star general and was the 65th United States Secretary of State—the first Black person to serve in that position. Look at them again. And again. And again. Keep looking. Keep comparing. Burn it into your brain.
3. When You See Something, Have The Courage To Say Something
Finally, Myers pleads with the audience to say something when they see something. “Of course I would,” we think. In reality, it takes a lot of courage to do it, especially when it’s to the people we love. Those people, those conversations, however, might just be the most important. Whether it’s a grandparent or an uncle or a parent, these are the crucial talks to have, because this is how the cycle continues. Children hear the comments. We hear the comments, and whether we agree or not, they embed themselves in our brain and support unjust and unhealthy biases. “We can’t shelter our children from racism when Black parents don’t have the luxury of doing so, especially those who have young Black sons,” she insists. In order to stop the unconscious biases, we need to have the strength to call them out in those we love.
“This thing is not about perfection,” Myers says. “It’s about connection. You’re not going to get comfortable before you get uncomfortable.” Confront your biases, move toward them, and have the courage to say something, especially to those you love. Naturally, this is just the very start of the journey. There is no end-all-be-all solution to systemic racism—it’s a constant battle we all have to fight together. I’m learning, growing, messing up, and starting over, but what matters is that you’re ready, willing, listening, and changing. By taking the first step toward understanding your biases, maybe together we can figure out how to create a more inclusive world for everyone. Click here to take the Implicit Association Test and check out The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, another suggestion from Myers.
Images: @dyanawingso / Unsplash; Youtube / TED; EUGENE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images/Biography; Blackpast
The last few months have been riddled with the word “uncertainty”—an email was not an email if it did not address the “uncertain times” that the coronavirus pandemic spewed upon us this past winter, right before giving you 40% off All Shoes and Tops. A targeted ad on Instagram wasn’t effectively targeted if it didn’t acknowledge the unease you must be experiencing during these “uncertain times,” and how 10% off a wine subscription jussssst might quell those concerns. But alas, coronavirus is no longer the headlining act in the treacherous music festival that is 2020.
Around the same time we were basking in our uncertainty as to when we’d be able to go on Hinge dates again, Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Louisville, was in her own home, unarmed, suffering eight bullets from the police. Less than a month before that, Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was jogging in his own neighborhood in Georgia and was hunted and killed by two white men who thought he “looked suspicious.” And finally, as if guided by theatrics, Act III occurred on May 25, Memorial Day. The day George Floyd, a Black man, was kneeled on and subsequently killed by the police, while Amy Cooper was a few states east calling the cops on Christian Cooper, a Black man in New York, who did absolutely nothing but ask her to follow the rules. What ensued, as I’m sure you are currently living, has been weeks of (justified) civil unrest. People are waking up. People are paying attention. People are acting. And while much of the narrative surrounding these times still remains uncertain, there is one thing of which I can be absolutely sure: your Black friends are not okay.
I typically steer clear of generalizations, but this one I resolutely stand by. The Black people in your life are experiencing a pain that uniquely aches. The ache emanates in the form of grief, confusion, guilt, laughter, tears, anger, pride, power, defeat. The ache is physical, emotional, cerebral. The ache is for the present, the ache is for the past. The ache is silent, the ache is deafening. The ache is personal, the ache is collective. The ache is difficult to put into words, but I can assure you, the ache is there—it always is. But this time, these last few weeks, that ache is particularly onerous.
So this is me, your Black friend—one of them, at least—taking a break from the Real Housewives of Atlanta virtual reunion (which is actually very, very good) to urge you to please stop sending weird texts ending with a Black fist emoji to the Black person you met once at a coffee shop three years ago, and start supporting the Black people in your life in ways that are constructive.
Disclaimer: Some of the things on this list may hurt your feelings—I did not write this with your feelings in mind. Apologies in advance. But I urge you to consider that if the worst hurt you experience in this dialogue is your feelings, perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, you’re ultimately doing okay.
Check In On Your Black Friends Selflessly and With Intention
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I think it’s great that you want to check in on your Black friends right now—I really do. In fact, I think it would be irresponsible and, frankly, shortsighted to not reach out to someone you call a friend who is currently living in a world where the cultural dialogue rests on the question of whether or not their existence is valid. But when you check in on them, I ask that you do so selflessly and with intention.
First, let’s talk about a selfless check-in. I once had a friend send me a hand-written birthday card that spent exactly one line wishing me a happy birthday, and then two paragraphs telling me how enlightened she now was and how much she’d grown as a person in the four months we hadn’t spoken. It became immediately clear that this “birthday card” was entirely for her, not me (and why we hadn’t spoken for four months). This is not the time to self-flagellate, and tell your Black friends that you’re a bad, bad, sick, twisted white person who is not worthy of love or happiness. I mean, I don’t know you, maybe all those things are true, but this is not the time to put that weight on your Black friend. This is not the time for your guilt. This is not the time for you to apologize for that one racist thing you laughed at six years ago in their presence. Trust me, that time will come. But right now, the birthday card is for your Black friend, not you. The check-ins I’ve received that have felt the most genuine have been the ones that are the most concise: “I love you. I am here for you. I am thinking of you. I am fighting for you. I will do better.”
Now, let’s talk checking in with intention. Three years ago, my mom died. I had tons of well meaning friends send texts asking, “How are you doing?” And if I were honest with them, I would have said: “Lol well, my mom’s still dead, so not great!” It is not particularly effective to ask your Black friend how they are doing right now. I’m giving you the answer key for this one: not great! So, with that in mind, think about a more constructive, intentional way to check in on your friend’s well-being. “Have you eaten today? I’d be happy to make/send something your way. Know that I’m here if you ever want to talk, cry, scream, take a walk, drink some wine, dance, sit silently, whatever.”
Give Them an Emotional Six Feet of Distance
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All my work. All my life. I’ve always tried to figure out how I work with what I got. How I serve the community I’m from. How I serve the future to come. It ain’t in silence. It won’t happen with silence. So everything I do is a stretch towards freedom. For my daughter. For your sons. For all of our children. #artjustice #artsctivism #mentor #protest #poeticprotest #donate #blm #bailoutnyc
Once you check in on your Black friends, please, for the love of chilled white wine, leave them alone. I’m not asking you to be silent, I’m simply asking you to be quiet. Give them a moment—many moments—to process. To breathe. To be exonerated of the burden of having to reply to a text. Further (wrap those feelings up), your Black friends don’t want to talk to YOU right now. If your Black friends want to talk, they probably want to talk to their Black friends or their other friends of color who get it. Again, this isn’t me telling you not to reach out; but once you do, expect some quiet from your Black friends. And start to get comfortable with that quiet. If you’ve checked in effectively, they know where to find you if and when they’re ready.
Do Something for Them Without Them Having to Ask
I have always hated the solicitation: “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” Now, that is partly because I have been gifted with the horrific disease of recoiling at the thought of asking anyone for help (my two therapists and I are working through this). But also, and perhaps more aptly, I’ve always found that in times of extreme grief and mental turmoil, it takes a lot of emotional intelligence to know exactly what kind of help you need. I’ll return to my mother’s death a few years ago. A couple of days after my mom died, I remember coming home to find that my roommate had done all of my laundry for me. This was particularly moving because if she would have asked me “hey, how can I help you right now?” I would have never said: “Um, you can do my gross laundry that’s been sitting on my floor for six weeks!” Not only would I have never said that, the thought of “needing to do laundry” would have never crossed my mind. So, instead of asking your Black friends what you can do to help them right now, which puts the onus on them to have to find the emotional intelligence to try to figure it out, anticipate their basic needs and try to cater to them. Do their laundry, order them food, make them a sandwich, bring them a glass of water. You are smart and capable! If you really want to help your Black friends right now, you can think of some things to do for them without them having to ask.
Support Their Mental Health
As I’m sure you can imagine, your Black friends’ mental health is particularly vulnerable right now. Many of your friends are experiencing situational upsets to their mental stability that may have been triggered by the events of the last few weeks; others may have been battling preexisting mental health conditions that have only been further exacerbated by the current social climate. A friend of mine reached out to me a couple of days ago and asked if he could pay the copay for one of my virtual therapy sessions. This felt particularly constructive because not only was he recognizing that my mental state was fragile, he offered to do something tangible to contribute to my mental wellness. So if you’re looking to direct your efforts towards supporting your friends’ mental health, offer to help pay for a therapy session if they’re seeing a therapist; offer to pay for a month of Liberate, a meditation app created by BIPOC for BIPOC; music is therapy for so many people in the Black community, so offer to pay for a month of their music streaming service. A great way to constructively support your Black friends is to effectively support their mental health.
Speak Up So Your Black Friends Don’t Have To
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Last week, my place of work sent a mass email to all of its employees addressing the “current events” to state that their official stance was: “racism is unacceptable.” Pause for applause. (I hope you read that last sentence with the seething sarcasm in which it was written.) Upon receiving this email, my mind went to two places: 1) there is absolutely nothing of substance here—it is 2020, I sincerely hope I work for a company that “condemns racism” and 2) Great! Now I have to respond to this incredibly vapid statement because if I don’t, no one else will. What I’m asking is that you be that “no one else” for your Black friend, in this case, your Black colleague. As my newfound guiding light, Audre Lorde, said, “ the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes.” You have no idea how exhausting, depleting, and quite frankly, trite it is to routinely have to enlighten others on the whys. Why you can’t say the n-word, why you can’t touch my hair, why mixing me up with the only other Black girl in the room is inherently racist. At this point, you know the answers to those whys. So, if you received a bullsh*t email like I did this week, you respond so your Black colleagues don’t have to. If you see a post that says “All Lives Matter,” you engage, so your Black friends don’t have to. Give us a break—we’ve been fighting this fight for 400 years. We’re tired.
Support Black Livelihood
I want you to ask yourself a question: “How am I uplifting Black voices and Black lives in weeks when they are not violently slain in the streets?” If you can’t answer this question, or if your answer is “by listening to Kanye West,” I urge you to spend some time with this point, specifically. Supporting Black Lives Matter does not end with fighting the systemic violence against and murder of black bodies; it must also include uplifting and empowering us while we’re alive. An enormously constructive trend I’ve been seeing on social media is white professionals using their platforms and privilege to open the gates for Black creatives. Editors, writers, and casting directors are making themselves and their colleagues directly accessible to Black creatives who historically encounter enormous barriers of entry. If you hold the keys or know someone who holds the keys to the gates to your profession, share them with a Black person. Writing a screenplay? Can the main character be Black? Probably! Hiring? Can that executive be Black? YES. And to answer your grandfather’s next question: no, this is not a “handout”—this is merely leveling the playing field in a game Black people were never intended to play. Also remember that supporting Black livelihood means supporting Black businesses! Here’s a list of Black-owned companies you can support right now.
Understand That You Cannot Understand—But Like, Try!
I’ve been seeing this graphic make its way around the realm that is social media: it usually consists of a Black and white hand being held (lol), with the caption “I understand that I cannot understand.” And while these words are absolutely correct—there is no way that any non-Black person could ever understand the unsurmountable weight that comes with being a Black body in America—simply saying you “can’t understand” is reductive and effectively absolves you from the task of having to learn. This ideal, while well-meaning, is passive, and gleans no commitment to action. Which leads me to my last point…
Do The Work
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Absolutely nothing else on this list is of any importance if you are not committing yourself to doing the work. Your check-in texts, your Venmo gifts, your Black Lives Matter T-shirts are just futile gestures in an empty vacuum of performative allyship if you are not holding yourself accountable and doing the work. “The work,” “the work,” what do your Black friends mean when we keep talking about “the work?” “The work” is committing yourself to learning about the structural, deliberate, and systemic nature of racism that was thrust upon your friend as soon as they entered this world as a Black body. “The work” is learning that from an early age, your friend has had to learn how to navigate as a Black body in a white world as a means of, at least, fitting in, and at most, survival. “The work” is looking within; looking at your own actions, your own belief and value systems, and recognizing that, whether consciously or not, you have not only been complicit in, but have benefitted from and contributed to, a world that was designed to suppress Black lives. Luckily for you, there are mountains upon mountains of books, documentaries, theory, podcasts, accessible to you right now that unpack the 400 years of systemic racism in America, starting at day 1. Know that the work is arduous. The work has no finish line. The work will probably hurt your feelings. But the work is what is required of you if you want to constructively support your Black friends.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; rachel.cargle, mobrowne, wastefreemarie, officialmillennialblack / Instagram
Trigger Warning: Violence, Explicit Language, Police Brutality
If you’re paying even a tiny bit of attention to the world around you, you’re probably aware of the protests spanning the nation over the past two weeks. These protests were sparked by public outrage over the graphic murder of George Floyd. However, they take place with the backdrop of a global pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black people, who are often quite literally sickened by America’s systemic racism. The protests also follow the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Both instances only came to national attention months after they’d taken place, with no evidence perpetrators would have faced consequences otherwise. Indeed, Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free.
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From all walks of life. From every race, gender and nationality: the people of this city are what truly makes it such a beautiful place. And in solidarity, we continue to peacefully protest in the tens of thousands in support of #blacklivesmatter. Photo by @lauraskills
A second weekend of protests remained largely peaceful with seemingly fewer violent clashes with police and incredible scenes of peace and solidarity around the country. But throughout the first week of June, militarized police forces and curfews that criminalized simply being outside resulted in thousands of arrests and countless accounts of police misconduct during what were initially peaceful demonstrations.
These scenes unequivocally show how police have continued to act violently and dangerously, even at peaceful protests… peaceful protests against police brutality and violence, no less. This is by no means a definitive list, but it should be a wake-up call that we are far from where we need to be as far as justice, progress, and equality are concerned.
A News Crew Flagged The Police To Stop Looters. They Handcuffed Black Community Members Instead.
This is one of the most absolutely insane moments I've ever seen on live television. pic.twitter.com/Uvzig8YGSa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 2, 2020
In this video filmed in Los Angeles, some people are attempting to loot a number of local businesses, leading to a reporter attempting to flag down law enforcement to protect the store and stop the looting. Instead of arriving calmly to the scene and taking literally 30 seconds to listen to those involved and actually, IDK, do their jobs, the police seem to go straight for the Black community members who were trying to protect their community from looting and damage. The officers largely ignore the reporter who is trying to explain that the individuals being put in handcuffs did not instigate the situation. As drivers in the area become concerned for the protesters, several exit their vehicles. They also appear to be held by police.
Law Enforcement Trap Protesters On Highway Embankment While Launching Pepper Spray
While this video looks like a scene out of a movie about the end of the world, it was actually taken in Philadelphia and couldn’t be further from fiction. After a march was broken up by police officers spraying tear gas, protestors were forced to move up towards a highway. 17 seconds in, you can hear the unmistakable phrase we have become all too familiar with: “I can’t breathe.”
Park Police Push Through Allies
BREAKING. Some protesters have jumped the gated barrier at Lafayette Park. US Park Police push them back. The White House is behind the US Park Police l & the Secret Service. @MSNBC @nbcwashington #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/RzJgnvv7Vq
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) May 31, 2020
Here, park police in DC rush a Black protester who is kneeling with his arms up. Another person who is clearly aware of their privilege joins him, trying to act as a barrier between him and the police. Despite his overwhelmingly non-aggressive actions, a group of officers rush them, forcibly pushing them back and forcing the protester to stand up. The young man’s name is Monte, and when questions were raised about the circumstances of the encounter, he shared additional footage showing an officer threatening to “hurt” him.
Police Push Elderly Man To The Ground Who A Bleeds From The Head As They Walk Away
In this shocking scene, an older man can be seen approaching police, but clearly poses no threat. An officer shoves him violently, causing him to lurch backwards several feet before falling to the ground with great force directly on his head. The 75-year-old man, later identified as Martin Gugino, instantly bleeds from the head. The officers ignore him as bystanders plead to get him medical attention. Gugino was hospitalized with a head injury. Both officers involved have been charged with assault. They have plead not guilty.
Man Opens Door To Protesters To Protect Them From The Police
@ABC7Kristen asked Rahul Dubey "what made you open your door and say 'get inside?'"
He describes the chaos, tear gas and pepper spray. pic.twitter.com/2t3MHaFDzu
— Adrianna Hopkins (@AdriannaHopkins) June 2, 2020
Heavy law enforcement presence throughout American cities didn’t just intimidate protesters. Residents in communities where protesters were cornered and threatened were so concerned for their safety that they sheltered them in their homes. A man in DC opened his doors to close to 100 protestors who were blocked in the area by police spraying tear gas and pepper spray. The man in the video explained that there was a “human tsunami” and recounted seeing police wands and batons out.
President Trump Forces Tensions Between Police And Protesters So He Can Walk Across The Street For A Picture
As I’m sure most of us are aware, the President of the United States will do quite literally anything for a photo op. Last week, tear gas and flash grenades were released on protestors to clear a path so that Trump could have a 17-minute photoshoot on his walk to the church. Trump has not even attempted to appear like he gives a sh*t about the Black Lives Matter movement, George Floyd, or the systemic racism in our country. The result: a picture of him holding the bible the same way someone would carry a bag of dog sh*t.
The building, the St. John’s Episcopal Church, had been damaged in unrest nights earlier. Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said she was not notified of the photo op and denounced the president for using the church as a prop.
NYPD Arrest New Yorkers Sitting On Their Stoop After Curfew
In this scene shared to Twitter by singer/songwriter Shaina Taub, she and her boyfriend are arrested while supporting peaceful protesters from their stoop. As law enforcement takes a man away, bystanders state with alarm that he lives in the building (cops have often attempted to storm city buildings where residents have sheltered protesters. see above.) Taub notes she was arrested with an essential worker grabbed from his bike and detained before he could show officers a note from his employer allowing him to earn a living this week.
last night my husband and I got arrested on the stoop of our building on the UWS just after 8 pm. we were cheering on a peaceful protest on our block. this was my small visceral window into the police brutality black folks have experienced for centuries. #DefundThePolice pic.twitter.com/SIbMxgekwi
— Shaina Taub (@shainataub) June 5, 2020
Police Trap Peaceful Protesters On Manhattan Bridge
Multiple times this week, law enforcement has implemented a “kettling” strategy, which means they literally wrangle protests like cattle into tight spaces to contain them. Not only does this force large groups into small spaces (during a pandemic, no less), but it also leaves protesters vulnerable to stampede, medical emergencies, dehydration, and more. Kettling also allows officers to make mass arrests, forcing hundreds if not thousands of peaceful protesters into an already crowded jail system during a global pandemic.
Groups Of White Men Roam Philadelphia With Baseball Bats
There are now two all white armed vigilante groups roaming Fishtown with the blessing of the @phillypolice pic.twitter.com/csGWCDZ6Nw
— Josh Albert (@jpegjoshua) June 1, 2020
This horrific footage shows an all-white vigilante group roaming Philly’s streets with baseball bats and other weapons. They only got more aggressive when the group was met by a peaceful counter-protest of individuals, many of whom were holding signs that read, “I can’t breathe.” When the police were called to disperse the incident, they immediately moved towards the peaceful counter-protest instead of apprehending the white guys holding literal weapons. One reporter was attacked by the white group for filming the incident and posted the gruesome images on his Twitter.
Police In Kansas City Attack, Tear Gas Peaceful Protesters
This is one of the most egregious ones of these I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot https://t.co/pQgRsc0bzF
— Danny Gold (@DGisSERIOUS) June 2, 2020
This disturbing video was taken in Kansas City when cops rushed a Black man who was literally peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights. The officers spray him and a woman standing next to him with mace before three police officers grabbed the man and tackled him. Following this, officers began spraying the entire crowd with mace.
Black Journalist Arrested For Doing His Job
Journalists nationally have been targeted by police for doing their jobs and reporting from massive protests. Many of us have seen the clip of Omar Jimenez, a Black man and a CNN reporter. Jimenez was arrested with his crew during the Minneapolis protest. In this video, cops were shooting rubber bullets at Kaitlin Rust, a reporter for NBC’s Louisville affiliate station.
Young Man Begs For Unity And Calls Police His Family. They Arrest Him.
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@pharaohalmighty This world breaks my heart everyday of how much hatred we have for one another on both sides of the field. “I Cry At Night Because I Feel Everyone’s Pain” Sometimes it feels like a movie to me and I just want people to understand each other, respect each other, and care for each other; because then and only then can we truly connect as one nation and move forward together to provide a better world for ourselves and for generations to come. We Can Do Make More Progress Together Than We Could Ever Do Alone ✊🏽💯🖤🙏🏼 #blacklivesmatter #alllivesmatter #mylifematters #peacefulprotest #martinlutherking
Protesting in Charleston this week, Givionne Jordan Jr., emotionally exercised his First Amendment rights. He literally said the words “I am not your enemy” and seems to have expressed no intention to incite any violence. Nonetheless, two minutes into the video Jordan was grabbed, arrested, and held overnight. Many on social media remarked they thought the office was approaching to grab Jordan’s hand, not detain him.
A Night Of Mourning For George Floyd In Minneapolis
There also were moving images of healing and solidarity across the country reminding us of who we could be. Minneapolis residents defied the city’s curfew this week to hold an all-night vigil for George Floyd.
The motto “to protect and serve” seems to no longer hold any weight among police forces. While there are cops who don’t actively target BIPOC and aren’t outwardly racist, as we see in this video, there are far too many who sit idly by while their coworkers continue to prove that no progress has been made in the fights against racial injustice and police brutality. From where I stand, those sitting idly by are complicit in the violence and guilty of violating their sacred oath to “protect and serve.”
As a white woman, I have an extremely limited ability to fully grasp these situations. My voice also has very little importance here. What these videos and images and situations like the ones depicted teach me is that it is not enough to post about racial injustice. It’s not enough to simply be against racism, we have to be better allies and we have to work at active, conscious anti-racism.
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